Disappointment as 176-year-old Irish time capsule opened to reveal parchment too wet to read
Published 24/04/2015 | 09:34
Excitement was tinged with frustration as a 176-year-old time capsule was opened to reveal a rolled parchment too wet to unfurl.
The 1839 lead container unearthed in the foundations of a long-gone orphanage in Derry earlier this month was prised open with painstaking precision in front of a captivated audience in the city's Tower Museum.
Mystery deepened when the lid was peeled back to show a bottle plugged with a red wax seal.
Inside were a number of coins and a discoloured roll of parchment.
But mounting anticipation was punctured when professional conservator Stefanie White broke the news that the paper was too wet and swollen to remove from the bottle.
The expert said it would have to undergo a drying process before it could be taken out and unrolled.
Tower Museum curator Roisin Doherty said the wait would have to go on to read the parchment.
"If we had proceeded with that it would have meant it would have been damaged," she said.
"It's a bit frustrating but because it is part of the process of conservation we need to take our time."
The coins were removed from the bottle. One was dated 1817.
The capsule was discovered by council staff involved in redevelopment work in Derry's Brooke Park, where the Gwyn Institute orphanage once stood. The children's home was built with part of a £40,000 endowment from wealthy city businessman John Gwyn.
The old building was fire bombed during the Northern Ireland Troubles and demolished in 1986.
There are plans for a new building on the site as a feature of the restored Victorian Park.
Ms Doherty said it was not uncommon for such time capsules to be buried with the foundation stone of old buildings in Ireland.
"This tradition that is observed - and it's been going on since medieval times - when building work starts on a building, what happens is they lay the time capsule within the foundation stone," she said.
"They would usually do this in the north eastern part of the building. This is well documented."